WASHINGTON — Hospitals get tax breaks that are worth far more than the value of the charity care they provide in return for their tax-exempt status, according to a report by Senate health committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). The American Hospital Association called the report “just plain wrong.”
The federal government requires that tax-exempt nonprofit hospitals operate for the benefit of the public. That includes providing free or reduced-cost care to low-income patients. The Affordable Care Act requires that hospitals maintain a publicly available financial assistance program and prohibits hospitals from taking “extraordinary collection actions” against patients who are eligible for charity care.
Sanders said some of the biggest nonprofit hospitals fail to meet those criteria. Committee staff looked at the 16 largest nonprofit hospitals in the country and found that they spent less than 60% of the value of their tax breaks on charity care. Some hospitals aggressively pursue collections and deny care to patients with outstanding bills.